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Female Disruptors: Angela Boswell of ‘the drape’ On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Who will remember you worked on Christmas? Your family or your boss? Work life balance is so important. When I was in my 30s, I felt that I had a lot to prove and worked non-stop. One Christmas, when I was working, my sister in law came over to me and asked these two questions. Almost 20 years later, I would say neither remember, but you get the point.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Boswell.

Angela Boswell is the co-founder of the drape, the online destination for luxury, custom curtains at affordable prices. Angela is a hybrid leader who works at the intersection of design and problem solving. Working in the Home Textiles field for over 20 years, she has traveled the world designing, developing, and sourcing products.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

As a child I was into sewing, knitting and other crafts — I liked to make stuff. When it came time for college, I chose to attend RISD and I majored in textile design. I knew that my path was not that of an artist but a creative problem solver. For over 20 years I worked in Home Textiles, designing, developing, and sourcing products. I joined a small company and during my 18 year tenure the company grew 5 fold. The company grew quickly and I kept pace, growing along the way as well. If you are with a company that encourages you to grow and learn and take on new responsibilities as the company does, you can learn a lot.

When ownership changed, it was time for a new path. I was in my “gap” year, having coffee with a few friends, and we started talking about what was missing from the home textile industry. Light bulb moment: instead of talking about what is missing, change it and fix it. We knew we were 100% capable of doing that and the drape was born. A place to buy custom drapes for you and your needs.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Over the past 5 years, many different home direct-to-consumer companies have come on the scene and disrupted how we decorate our homes. Today it’s possible to furnish almost your entire house from your laptop or mobile device. The white space, or missing item in the interior design industry, was curtains and drapes. If people are comfortable buying a sofa or mattress online, then we knew it was possible to disrupt how people buy curtains by selling them online. We listed out the pain points in buying curtains in a retail store.

  1. Limited lengths: Retail stores have a small amount of space that they can dedicate to curtains, so they carry one or two standard lengths.
  2. Styling: You see a fabric you like in store, but it is a grommet top and you wanted a back tab. Or it doesn’t have a lining and you wanted a blackout.
  3. Help: There is no one at a retail store who can help you, so we offer help. Free swatches, so you can touch the fabric and check the colors. You can schedule a 30 minute video design consultation, and we can review the space, the options, how to measure, and more. And of course, we have chat and email to answer questions.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In our enthusiasm to build a social media presence and connect with our target audience, we accidentally created two social media profiles on each platform. Once we realize the mistake we made, it turned out to be quite the pain to streamline to one handle. It was a simple error, but also reminded us the importance of taking a breath and making a plan even if you are really excited about it!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

  1. Dr. Catherine Leslie: When I was in high school, there was a local woman that was looking for someone to help her sew, and my home economics teacher recommended me. Catherine was making custom clothes out of her apartment, after quitting her office job to follow her passion. I learned so much from her about being an independent person. She taught me a lot about sewing and fitting. At the time, I thought the best part was that she would take me with her to NYC for fabric buying trips. We kept in touch, and she continued her education and eventually received her doctorate. When she started teaching at Kent State, she called me and asked if I would be interested in sponsoring a summer intern. What a great way to pay forward what she did for me. This was the start of a very successful internship program between Kent State and the company I was working for. Being a leader and manager is also about being a teacher.
  2. Renee Hultin: My second job out of college was with Burlington Industries. The department that I was in had a female VP of Marketing. This was another person in my life that was willing to spend time and teach the younger employees. It has left a lasting impression on me that she was the only woman who sat in the executive hallway.
  3. Budd Goldman: He was the owner of Ellery Homestyles where I spent 18 years of my career. Budd believed in my leadership skills and gave me freedom to build and mold a team. He often said that he thought I could be the next CEO and was grooming me. While I might not be thrilled with him on a personal level, he did help me grow. He was the one that pushed me to pursue further education.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Online shopping has disrupted the way people shop. It’s had a positive impact over all, but I also think it has a downside. I like to touch and feel the product. I like to interact with people in the store. Also, I find that online there are too many options and it can be overwhelming, giving shoppers a negative experience. We are trying to balance all of this at the drape with free swatches, Zoom consultations, and a curated assortment.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. Who will remember you worked on Christmas? Your family or your boss? Work life balance is so important. When I was in my 30s, I felt that I had a lot to prove and worked non-stop. One Christmas, when I was working, my sister in law came over to me and asked these two questions. Almost 20 years later, I would say neither remember, but you get the point.
  2. You can stay up all night for weeks worrying about a hard conversation that you have to have with an employee or a co-worker. But guess what, they aren’t, because they don’t even know what is bothering you. My mom pointed this out to me early in my career. Have the hard conversation and move on.
  3. You are amazing, talented, etc. You will get notes, emails, comments like this throughout your career. SAVE THEM for the days that you feel down.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

There is so much to still be done!! We are in growth mode. It is important that as we grow, we continue to evaluate ourselves. Sometimes the thing you think is going to be huge isn’t. And that is ok, as long as you recognize it and can address it. For products, we want to expand and add additional categories. We are in the process of some great collaborations. We are launching our “to the trade” business.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I get most frustrated by being interrupted and talked over. I watch this happen again and again. Not only to myself, but other women. Mansplaining is a problem. Anything we can do to encourage female leadership as we grow will be at the forefront of our agenda.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

In the time period between coming up with the idea for the drape and launch day, I listened to a lot of How I Built This with Guy Raz. Some episodes scared the pants off of me, but mostly it gave me confidence. I would listen while I was cross country skiing and practice my answers for when the drape is interviewed. Many of the stories are about companies started from passion, which I have for curtains. What gave me confidence was my history working in home textiles.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We are living in a time right now that has potential for change, and diversity is mandatory. The new normal needs to wrap itself around flexible work. That can look different for different people and different jobs. It also has to be equitable, and that is where we will all have to do heavy thinking.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Did you do your best right now? -Anonymous

On a day when I am feeling off my game, I ask myself if I did my best right now, and as long as the answer is yes, then keep going. Your “best” changes constantly.

We can do hard things. -Brené Brown

Of course we can do hard things!! All the time. Sometimes the hard thing is getting out of bed. Sometimes it is picking the right grey color. Sometimes it is deciding if you are going to have dessert.

Life is hard, fun, and amazing. We have to keep moving forward doing our best in the moment.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest: @shopthedrape

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Female Disruptors: Angela Boswell of ‘the drape’ On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.